Filling vacancies in high-demand occupations can be done, and even done quickly, but agencies must “think critically and creatively” and use the recruiting and hiring flexibilities available to them, MSPB has said.

MSPB touted a DHS initiative to hire for cybersecurity positions–the type of job that in almost all cases will be exempted from the general federal hiring freeze–using a hiring fair and the direct hire authority.

That authority is subject to qualification requirements, public notice, and career transition program provisions, but not to rating and ranking and veterans’ preference rules. OPM has approved it for several government-wide positions including cybersecurity and technology specialists, MSPB noted in a recent publication.

It noted that at the time of the fair last year, DHS had about 350 cybersecurity vacancies and that it was able to make about 200 tentative job offers by the end of the two-day event. Managers could make offers on the spot, subject to security clearance approval, condensing a process that typically takes four to six weeks into those two days.

DHS also brought in equipment and officials “to demonstrate the interesting, important things the department does.”

“The direct hire authority is not a cure-all for the federal hiring process. The flexibility should be used with caution because it does not require assessment beyond minimum qualifications. But if combined with a strong recruitment strategy to target high-quality applicants and a probationary period process that weeds out poor performers, it can provide for a more efficient process for hard to fill positions,” said MSPB.